NBA: Christmas Day Preview

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Amidst all the hullabaloo this week, what with the parties and the dinners and the screaming kids and the last-minute panic about what to get that certain person who will make you rue the day if you screw it up, the NBA offers hoops handicappers a Christmas Day five-pack for your viewing pleasure. And in that giving spirit, will be offering the action that makes the games all that much more entertaining.

The action starts early on Friday when the New York Knicks (10-17 through Sunday’s play) host the Miami Heat (13-12) at MSG (noon Eastern, ESPN). New York recently won six of eight games as they try to recover from that 1-9 start. Miami, meanwhile, has slowed after a quick start, winning just six of its last 16 games.

These two teams met in the season opener, which the Heat won 115-93 in Miami.

Next up, it’s a battle between two of the beasts of the East when the Boston Celtics (21-5) visit the defending conference champion Orlando Magic (20-7) at the O–Rena (2:30 pm, ABC). Boston already leads the Atlantic Division by 10 games, and recently reeled off 11 wins in a row. Orlando, on the other hand, is only a half-game up on the Atlanta Hawks in the Southwest Division, and is “only” 4-3 over its last seven games.

These two teams met a month ago in Boston, where the Magic came away with an 83-78 victory.

The action then shifts westward when the LeBron and Shaq Traveling Circus, also known as the Cleveland Cavaliers (20-8), hits LaLa Land to take on Kobe and the Lakers (22-4) at Staples Center (5 E, ABC). Cleveland owns a seven-game lead in the Central, and just had a five-game winning streak snapped. Defending league champion Los Angeles, meanwhile, owns the best record in the Association so far this season, and a 4.5-game lead in the Pacific Division.

LA swept the two games with the Cavs last year, and both games went UNDER the posted totals.

The other LA team, the somewhat surprising Clippers (12-14), then gets a chance to play in primetime when they run with the Phoenix Suns (18-9) at the Purple Palace (8 E, ESPN). A season after going 19-63, the Clips recently won three of four and are trying to close in on .500. Phoenix, meanwhile, is the Lakers’ closest competitor in the Pacific, and is 16-11 against the pointspreads this season.

These two teams met opening night in LA, with the Suns winning 109-107.

And in the Christmas nightcap, the Northwest Division-leading Denver Nuggets (19-9) visit Portland to tangle with the Trail Blazers (17-12) at the Rose Garden (10:30 E, ESPN). Denver recently lost four of seven games, while Portland won three of four. So the Nuggets lead the Blazers by 2.5 games in the Northwest.

Denver won at Portland back in October in the first meeting this season between these teams 97-94.

Bettors should also check out the NBA futures market at, where the Lakers and Celtics are listed as co-favorites at +200 to win the NBA championship this season. They’re followed by, among others, the Magic at +250, the Cavs at +500, the Nuggets and Suns at +1,000, the Blazers at +3,000, the Clippers at +10,000, and the Knicks and the Heat at +15,000.

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